Budgeting in the American States: Important Questions about an Important Activity
EDWARD J. CLYNCH AND THOMAS P. LAUTH
Budgeting represents a central activity in state government. Budget decisions determine not only how much will be available for state spending, but also which policies will be implemented and which social values will prevail in state governance. Executive branch recommendations portray the governor's policy goals and objectives and constitute a plan for state disbursements. Legislative appropriations determine which agency programs and gubernatorial policy initiatives receive financial support.
The separation of powers principle, which divides policymaking authority between the executive and legislative branches, complicates decision making in the American political system. Budgeting requires continual executive-legislative interaction because governments begin each budget cycle anew and produce a new product. Research on the budget process reveals a struggle between the executive and legislature in which neither branch ever completely eclipses the other. 1
At the beginning of this century, the traditional standard operating procedure in many jurisdictions led to legislative dominance and a minimal role for presidents, governors, and mayors. Departments presented spending requests directly to the legislative body. 2 Agencies normally submitted lump-sum budgets and bargained directly with appropriations committees over their spending desires. Chief executives lacked the authority to coordinate or revise those estimates, consider them in relationship to each other, or balance them against an estimate of available revenue. Furthermore, agency estimates were sent forward at different times, in a variety of forms, and adhered to no common classification scheme. Many government reform advocates such as Frederick A. Cleveland, Frank Goodnow, and William F. Willoughby regarded these practices as inefficient, likely to lead to excessive spending, or even worse, to abuse in the handling of public funds. 3 These problems were exacerbated in state government by the large number of agency heads who were either directly elected or appointed by independent boards and commissions.
Early budget reformers, such as A. R. Hatton and William Willoughby, as well as their later brethren, argue that democratic responsiveness undergirds arguments